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Square Meal Plate

18th Century square plate from the HMS Invincible Collection.


This square plate is representative of the provisioning of ships and victualling from Chatham and Deal. There is a direct link with Samuel Pepys who was Clerk of the Acts and Chief Secretary to the Admiralty and responsible for the equipping and provisioning of ships. The Royal Navy was the principal Kentish mass industry and employer providing support services to the Navy. The Kent landscape was changed by tree felling and management to provide the raw materials for shipbuilding.

Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust

Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust,
The Sail & Colour Loft,
The Historic Dockyard,
Kent ME4 4TE


The plate is marked with a broad arrow. A broad arrow is a symbol used traditionally in heraldry, most notably in England, and later by the United Kingdom Government to mark government property. The square plate is the origin of the expression ‘a square meal’ and also the term ‘on the fiddle’. The fiddle is the retaining strip around the plate and if too much food was placed on the plate is would spill over onto the fiddle.

Curriculum Links:

  • KS1: Local History, Everyday Materials
  • KS2: Local History, Cooking and Nutrition, Materials and their Properties
  • KS3: Local History, Britain 1509- 1745, Cooking and Nutrition


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